The 24 Days of Blogging Day 2: “And when we’re worried, and we can’t sleep, we’ll count our blessings instead of sheep”

Friday, 2. December 2016 23:41 | Author:

Today I attended a training session for teachers and administrators who will be serving on accreditation teams in the spring.  All of the schools in our diocese are accredited through the Western Catholic Education Association (WASC) as well as the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).  Every six years, schools do a self-study, gathering and analyzing data, evaluating how their school meets the standards of a successful Catholic school, and developing an improvement plan for the next six years.  I’ve participated in all aspects of accreditation, preparing a school’s self study, serving and chairing visiting teams, and reading visiting team reports as a commissioner.  I enjoy all parts of this process, and despite usual criticism about the work and time involved, I believe that schools are better for this process.  It is our chief guarantee to parents and the community of the quality and vitality of school programs realative to student growth.

That being said, this process (and all school evaluation) is hampered by the myopic culture of success.  No parent would ever send a child to a school that isn’t doing well, so every school, by definition, must be doing well.  For a school administrator to admit that there are major areas of growth is tantamount to organizational suicide.  Areas of growth have to be contained within acceptable areas with clear plans to address them, like the need for more technology training or need for more data analysis.  Neither of these two truly admits a need except to get better. 

So there is a tendency for schools to write reports that are defensive rather than truly analytical.  If the final outcome (we are a good school) is decided before any data is gathered or one word is put to page, what is gathered, how it is seen, and the story it tells is of limited impact.  Our culture (particularly the culture of non-public schools) can’t accept a less than shining result.  So results are shining.  Teams likewise, reading reports and visiting schools, feel subconscious pressure to affirm wherever possible the story that the school is telling itself.  Though many teams make strong recommendations and point out flaws in the report, the default is to fall into the school narrative.  To veer too dramatically is to put at risk the school’s actual viability.

The problem with this is that it is an anti-growth model. If structures put themselves at risk by admitting too much, then the structures will only look at and deal with superficial issues.  Change doesn’t happen.  If there were a way for schools to be assessed on how clearly they find and understand true short and long term needs, and if our culture could comprehend that it is the organizations that are squarely facing their weaknesses that will have a better long term pattern of success, true growth would take place.  The terror of seeming weak in any way is a recipe for mediocrity.   Wouldn’t it be world shaking is the model moved from, “prove that you are good,” to, “prove that you really understand yourself.”  As is there is a tendency to get reports that read like the old interview response, “My greatest weakness? Well, my greatest weakness is that I just work too hard.”

Let me be clear again, I think the accreditation process as we have it is the best tool for school improvement that we have, but even the best of tools can get better.

As always, I welcome your comments.  

Image:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/71195909@N03/16239281418

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The 24 Days of Blogging Day 1:  “If you haven’t got a penny, then a ha’penny will do”

Thursday, 1. December 2016 16:32 | Author:

Welcome to 24 Days of Blogging, a yearly excercise in observation, comment and self-examination as the year comes to close (and an artificial way to boost the yearly post count) on themes of Christmas, technology , education, and whatever else comes to mind.  I hope you enjoy the journey with me.

As I stepped out of my car this morning, I glanced down and saw a dollar bill on the pavement.  Looking around, I saw no one near, and no obvious owner, so I pocketed the bill and continued on my way (if you feel this was act of thievery, I don’t know what to tell you…perhaps you had better stop reading because some of my other moral judgments will disturb you a lot more). As I walked on my way I felt an unmistakable sense of joy and excitement, that the whole day was blessed by this random act of currency.

Thinking about this reaction I had to wonder.  I mean, honestly, what is a dollar to me?  The single bill will have absolutely no impact on my day.  So why am I feeling like I won the lottery?  Sometimes I will get a nice check after a talk or workshop, but the excitement of that number doesn’t compare with finding a five in my pocket after the wash (a bill I will likely leave in another pair of pants later in the week.

The most obvious explanation is that it is the joy of surprise.  I expected the check, I need the check, so though it is a blessing, it has been already integrated into my life before I receive it.  I can feel satisfaction for a job well done or relief that I’ll have money to pay upcoming bills.  However, this is the logical cause and effect of life. Though I am very lucky to do the things I do and to have people value them, I “deserve” the check or my salary.  This dollar on the ground was unmerited and unexpected, so it can’t help but feel like a cosmic “atta boy.”  It is a undiluted bright moment in a day filled with its own concerns and worries (including what I was going to write about this morning…which it also seems to have answered).  It is the surprising hand of joy in the midst of the mundane.

A second thought I had my though, and this is something I was thinking about yesterday and will be writing about in a later post, has to do with our reactions to the micro and the macro.  It seems at times our reactions to small experiences are more authentic (and often more intense) than our reactions to large events.  Receiving a nice check will make me feel good, but not really joyful.  This dollar on the pavement drew me completely out of everything I was thinking and was an unmitigated positive experience, beyond questioning or analysis (ok, I hear you saying “so what are you doing in this post, then?”). There are no thoughts as there are with the check of what it can be used for (or the darker side, wondering if it should have been more).  Tying ideas from my last post of 2015 to this, this is an example of mirth, unexplained, undefined, unmerited joy.

It is my dearest hope that maybe one or two of these posts might prove that “dollar on the pavement” for the (exceedingly small) audience that reads them.  I leave them to be found, hoping they will bring joy.

BTW…I decided to put the dollar into the tip jar at my Starbucks…it feels it was meant for them.

Whew! the first post is always the hardest…right?

As always, I welcome your comments.

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Watch This Space

Wednesday, 30. November 2016 16:20 | Author:

Beginning tomorrow the Work With Hope website will feature the 5th annual “24 Days of Blogging.” From December 1-24 I will be writing a new blog post every day.  Based on past years these posts will be an informal mishmash of education, technology, Christmas traditions, carols, and anything else I can desperately think up to write about (suggestions for posts are greatly appreciated.
I know this has been the sparsest year to date on the blog for several reasons, some of which I’ll discuss in the days to come and some I won’t, so I’m sending up this preview to remind people that the blog continues to exist and (God willing) there’s a lot more to come!

As always, I’ll welcome your comments

Image: http://www.nicola-walker.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/NW-advent-2012.png

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The Encarta Enigma

Tuesday, 1. November 2016 21:45 | Author:

I was listening to a podcast last week, and one of the hosts as a joke suggested that he obtained all of his knowledge from Microsoft Encarta.  I laughed at the multi-leveled humor of his statement, both that anyone would still use Encarta and that anyone ever did use Encarta as a primary source.  However, hearing the name brought back memories, and also helped me make sense of a lot of what has happened in between.

For my treasured millennial audience, let me explain.  In the mid 1990s desktop computers began to come equipped with a Compact Disc Read Only Memory (CD ROM) Drive.  These CDs could hold comparatively enormous amounts of data.  Programs which in the past had taken multiple floppy discs to load now fit on a single disc.  The size of this storage disc also allowed for the inclusion of audio and video clips that were never practically distributed prior to this innovation.  The Internet was in its infancy for most users, and it was accessed by strangling dialup modems which made knowledge possible only to those willing to wait…and wait.  For a brief moment, it appeared that the CD ROM was going to be the gateway to oceans of knowledge for all computer owners.

Into this sprung Encarta.  Microsoft developed Encarta as a CD ROM encyclopedia and included it free with most purchases of new Windows computers with a CD ROM drive (one could cynically say that they were building the market for new devices by giving away media that only worked on the latest machines).  Encarta was the future of the encyclopedia, easy to access, colorful, and including sound and video clips that could bring subjects to light.  Why simply read about King’s “I have a dream” speech, when one could watch it in blurry video? Mozart’s biography would be accompanied by clips from his greatest symphonies. Articles about Vietnam could be illustrated with battlefield clips.  The compact size, coupled with the new features that couldn’t be replicated even in venerated Encyclopedia Britannica made Encarta the clear path for the future.  I remember early computer labs with machines equipped with Encarta amazing parents with the blurry MLK clip.  Clearly education was going to be different. 

But Encarta not only didn’t change the world, in the big scheme of things, it barely got used beyond the play stage.  Everyone took Encarta out for a spin and they were amazed with its look, its sound, its tricks, but soon most found that they seldom if ever used it after this.  Because the problem was that Encarta, for all of its amazing, status quo challenging abilities, was not a very good encyclopedia.  A single disc could not hold nearly enough information to give articles the depth necessary even for cursory research (exacerbated by the space taken by video and sound) and later two-disc versions were cumbersome and even still were lacking the depth to create value.  Even the video and audio clips were organized around a limited number of high-profile subjects and not uniformly available for less glitzy topics.  In a variation of Twain’s “A classic is a book that perople praise but don’t read,”  Encarta became the disc that everyone had but no one used.

Encarta’s failure was that it was simultaneously groundbreaking and not good enough.  The subsequent history of online reference (including Wikipedia) shows that many of the features of Encarta were the direction of the future, but it’s fundamental lack of content and depth made it useless.  In many ways it mirrored the CD-ROM itself, incredibly large storage for its time, but not nearly enough for the demand it was to face.  

In the evolution of digital resources there have been other “Encarta enigmas” devices and programs that are so amazing that they appear to be a sure success, but they fade from impracticality or lack of interest, or they are quickly surpassed by something else.  I think of this today because the new frontier of classroom technology is the digital space.  Which of the tools in the “Maker spaces” will become the education tools of tomorrow, and which are exciting shiny “one hit wonders” that look amazing in demonstrations, but in practice do the same thing over and over and never evolve into a true multi-use tool?  

As always, I welcome your comments.

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Seeing Past Today

Thursday, 30. June 2016 20:30 | Author:

A while ago a friend sent me an article from the Wall Street Journal.  The article suggested that business managers should encourage team members to take notes by hand, rather than on devices.  This advice was based on a study of college students that demonstrated that those who took notes by hand retained information better than those who took notes on a laptop or tablet.  The article was, of course, not sent to me to encourage good business practices, but a good-natured jab.  I’m used to these joyous demonstrations that technological tools are not all that.

After reading the article, I replied that I was not surprised in the least by these results.  College aged students today probably received the worst training ever in using technology as an effective learning tool.  They were taught to use the machine as a straight substitute for pen and pad and to take notes in the same way one would do so in a notebook.  Although this might work sometimes, informal note taking requires greater speed and flexibility than are easily provided with a keyboard-based device, and stylus inputs are still somewhat limited.  The students working with keyboards were probably focusing more on typing than anything else.  Note taking on a device is a different skill from note taking with paper and pen, and these students never learned it.

Larger than this, however, is my frustration with this type of article that makes blanket suggestions that traditional tools are best and new methods aren’t all they promise.  This is the type of article that will be half-remembered and trotted out on a dozen campuses to argue against adoption of new tools.  In the minds of many readers, this is the end of the story.

The term I have made up for this type of thinking is  the Fallacy of the Eternal Today. The moment captured in this study becomes frozen in the mind of a reader as a permanent reality, not recognizing that the use of new tools is evolutionary and adaptive.  The retention based on different note taking styles is clear…for this group of students today, but it is far from clear that it will always be that way.  If we make future decisions based on current limitations, we are tied into an eternal today.

This is not a new phenomenon. Early models of the automobile were not as fast and were less reliable than horse drawn vehicles. I’m sure someone sent an auto manufacturer articles about college students who got to class faster riding horses than in cars.  If we had believed that the current reality would be true forever, we would have a radically different world.

Another area where the Fallacy of the Eternal Today is present is in early assessments of e-readers. When I talk about the inevitability of electronic books becoming the norm, there is usually someone who points to a study somewhere that shows that some people retained less when reading an electronic book than a retro (paper) book. Whether this is true or not is somewhat irrelevant to me, as my question is, “Will it always be this way?” Reading an electronic book is a very different experience from reading a paper book, and our eyes, hands, and brains are still adapting to this new medium. Today’s truth is not tomorrow’s destiny.

This is not to say that critical assessment of new tools isn’t important, for amidst the true, transformative innovations there is a lot of hokum. But we should not limit our vision to only what is immediately in our sight.  Rather we should ask three questions:

  • Are the limitations of the technology tool based on lack of practice, lack of familiarity, or lack of development?
  • Is the tool primarily limited by current hardware or software?
  • Do the limitations of the technology tool reassure us that traditional, comfortable tools are better?

If the answers to any of these questions is yes, then we may be falling in to the Fallacy of the Eternal Today.  The paradox of education is that we must use the means of today to prepare students for tomorrow, and educators cannot be so tied to present limitations as to see future possibilities.

As always, I welcome your opinions.

Oh, and keep those articles coming.

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New Eyes

Tuesday, 7. June 2016 20:50 | Author:

OK, this is the post where I finally go over the edge and alienate everyone who has ever read this blog.  What I’m going to talk about is a repudiation of much of my youth and a horrible attack on much of what I have held sacred. But as painful as it is to say these things, I have to “speak what [I] think now in hard words.” (Emerson)

Let’s start with my credentials.  I’m a bookstore guy.  I put myself through college working at Brentano’s Bookstore in South Coast Plaza.  On my application to work there, I cited my love of bookstores in general with the plea, “I have ALWAYS wanted to work in this store!” During my interview, the woman who was to be my manager and friend for many years asked why I was willing to give up a well-paying job in a drug store for a much more modest paying job at a bookstore.  Years later she would tell me that she remembered my plaintive cry, “Have you ever worked in a drug store?”

Working in a bookstore was the most remarkable professional, social, and personal experience of my (admittedly short to that point) life, and in many ways formed me beyond any other influence.  I loved the job, loved the people, and loved the books.  It was such a pleasure to spend full days sorting, stacking and stocking books, talking to people about what they had read and wanted to read (sometimes working hard to conceal an eye roll), and reading. Each of the employees had a “library card” to take out any book for personal reading (I never knew if this was a company policy or a generous violation by our manager…anyway, I’m sure that the statute of limitations has run out) so I could read any book and as many books as I wanted.  If you purchased a novel from Brentano’s in the 80s (well, a good novel), it is likely that I read it first.

Long after I moved on from Brentano’s (and Brentano’s sadly closed its doors, harbinger of the rest of the industry) I still took refuge in bookstores.  After Brentano’s closed, I would visit Rizzoli’s or Scribners (both gone now), spending hours looking at books and listening to music (this was before the bookstore-coffee shop became popular…I would have spent even more time if this were available). In recent years I’ve frequented the local Barnes and Noble semi-regularly, enjoying the feeling of being around books and other readers.

But somewhere in the last few years my relationship with printed text has changed.  After finding the first few ebooks I read to be challenging to navigate, I started to fall into the flow of reading on my iPad.  I loved having a book with me whenever I wanted, marking and annotating text without defacing the paper (and finding these easily), and going beyond the book looking up definitions and other references on the web.  The last time I read a paper book I found it cumbersome and limited.  I stopped buying books.  In fact, when I would go to Barnes and Noble, it was only to find books to download.  But I still loved being in the store, even if it was only a showcase for my real virtual store (oxymoronic, but accurate).  It was a nostalgic visit to a house where I grew up but didn’t live in any more.

That is until last week, having a chunk of time between appointments, I stopped by a Barnes and Noble, seeking the familiar reassurance from the shelves.  However, as I walked through the cases, glancing at titles and familiar authors, I saw something I hadn’t before, and it hit me like a trade paperback between the eyes.

Friends and fellow readers, I saw WASTE.

One of the dirty little secrets of all retail and particular to bookstores is that far less than half the books that are received are ever sold (and this number is inflated by best sellers).  Look across a shelf of perhaps 30 novels in the fiction section maybe one will sell, maybe two (unless one is The Great Gatsby or To Kill a Mockingbird…thanks to schools, those always sell).  The others will sit there for a time and then (unless they somehow achieve classic status) they will be returned to a publisher.  For every box of 100 books received, a box of 60-80 is returned.  Mass market paperbacks (the conventional small size) are not even returned.  The cover is ripped off an returned and the book is discarded (I still have a sizable library of “strips” as we called them, retrieved from the trash bin…once again, I think the statute of limitations has run out).

The model is built on a twentieth (or pre-twentieth) century concept of retail, have everything someone might want so you have the one or two things that they do want. This concept of “disposable overhead” was a necessity for a completely physical marketplace but seems less and less practical in a digital world.  My Barnes and Nobel may have several hundred thousand titles, but Amazon has over a million titles, and the ability to control production and limit waste can increase this number over time.  There is no practical reason why every book every published shouldn’t be available for instant download (I know there are challenges of rights and legalities, but these are technical, not practical details).  Far fewer physical books are shipped to where they are not wanted only to be shipped back and destroyed (and recycling of paper is not a zero sum game). More books are available to more people more readily.

However, as with most digital conversions, there is a cost that comes with these benefits.  The loss of the bookstore will indeed be a loss of many cultural touchstones, only some of which can be replaced. The feeling of browsing, touching and looking may find replacement in the Amazon site, but it won’t be the same.  The recommendations of a knowledgable bookseller may be replaced by Goodreads recommendations, but it loses the human touch.  People can read in a Starbucks, but it won’t be the same as reading in a Starbucks in a bookstore.

I guess the question is whether reducing the waste and impracticality of the current bookstore is worth these trade offs. During my last visit (I’m not sure that it will truly be my last visit, but who knows?) for the first time, the scale tipped in the other direction.

As always, I welcome your comments.

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Snapping into Place

Tuesday, 3. May 2016 22:51 | Author:

 

Millennials and Xers need read no further, unless you want to be entertained by Boomer ineptitude.

 

 

 

 

“Why don’t you try Snapchat?” a friend said to me, “It’s a great way to connect with friends.”

My initial reaction was hesitancy, Snapchat? wasn’t that the thing that kids used for all sorts of unseemly purposes? Snapchat? How can I take on another social media platform when I can’t keep up with tools that I already use? Snapchat?

But then I thought about all the times I’ve encouraged teachers and adminstrators to try something new, and all the times that I tried to help them past their fears and hesitancy, promoting the importance of our participation in the digital revolution if we are to retain our relevance. I’ve stood in front of groups preaching the gospel of safe social media.  What kind of a hypocrite am I if I’m not willing to try something new?

So I downloaded the Snapchat app, created an account, added friends, and almost immediately hit a wall.

For those who have not used Snapchat, it’s basically a photo and video sharing app. Selected friends or groups receive pictures and short video clips. There is a photo editor to customize the photographs, and a chat feature.  Along with this is the ability to create a “story,” a set of pictures and videos that can be seen by all of the followers.  The signature feature of the app is impermance. A receiver views pictures and videos once or twice and then thy are removed from the phone (I know there are ways to save these, but that’s not the spirit of the app), likewise, chats and comments are removed once they have been read.  The clips in the “story” stay there for 24 hours and then disappear.

I found the app terribly confusing.  What do the different screens and controls do?  I couldn’t find things I sent, and more than once I missed something sent to me.  The “one shot and then it’s gone” aspect exacerbated every mistake.  Bigger than this, I had no sense of what this tool was or how I could use it. I considered asking my daughter (to her utter horror) how to use the platform.  Ultimately, though, I surrendered to the modern Mecca of all professional development, YouTube. I watched a video that explained all the screens and controls, but most of these I’d figured out already through trial and error.  What it didn’t answer was why I should use the platform and what I could do with it.  I became certain that Snapchat was going to be added to the dust pile of social media that wasn’t for me.

But this morning during a ride, it suddenly occurred to me that I could take pictures and videos during the ride and people could see them in order on my story.

CLICK

Suddenly the whole function became clear to me and this unweildy gadget suddenly became a tool.  My whole approach to learning and using the controls was directed to the things I wanted to do.  My learning curve jumped, and my skill (though not great yet) improved.  Now I’m looking forward to finding new abilities and uses.

So, why do I tell this story? Not to encourage everyone to use Snapchat, and not to illustrate my ineptitude (there are plenty of examples of this on these pages). I think this experience says something about training.  It’s easy to show people how to do things, it’s harder (but more vital) to show them why.  Without vision, a tool is a gadget, and without motivation learning is just so many tricks.

As always I welcome your comments.

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Stepping Away

Wednesday, 9. March 2016 19:43 | Author:

Image result for taking a breakYes, yes, yes…I know it has been a month and a half since I posted here.  Frankly it has been just about as long since I posted on Twitter (probably shouldn’t have said this, everyone probably just assumed I was posting at another time).  I have been a bad media socialite.

I don’t know about you, but I occasionally go into a funk where I just don’t feel like sharing or creating.  Stuff goes on in our non-digital lives, and it feels like too much to contain in words, and certainly too much to share.  Sometimes I just get tired, and the blog and Twitter just feel like two more mouths crying for my time.

The good thing is that I always seem to eventually come out of it.  I get an idea for a blog post (hopefully better than this) and I get excited about writing.  I open my Twitter stream and something invites or provokes me into response, and I enjoy the feeling of connection all over again.  I haven’t lost faith in the value of these venues. I’m just winded, and I can’t swim in the ocean right now.

The bad part of this is that the world of social media is very much a world of the now.  If you aren’t currently posting, you don’t exist in the zeitgeist and memories are very short.  That great article or hilarious post I wrote two months ago has no bearing on today’s readers.  You take a break and you start from scratch building your network of followers again.

I don’t know where I’m going with this, beyond a plea for understanding of my absence.  I know that I can’t be alone in this.  Social media exhaustion is only one side effect of the ‘always on” digital culture.  While the reactionary response is to condemn this world (“you kids, with your iPhones, and your Facesbook, and your digitals”), I am more inclined to see this as the individual self-adjusting to the challenges.  We need “Stepped Away” signs to post in our digital space and the patience and care to accept (and maybe even encourage) these breaks in others.  But, of course, no one will probably read this, since it has been so long since I posted.

As Always, I welcome your comments.

 

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Predictions vs Trends: The Science of NOT Knowing What’s Coming Next!

Friday, 8. January 2016 23:13 | Author:

Note:  I had the great pleasure to guest on the show Education Talk Radio with Larry Jacobs to discuss this article and other things.  The recording can be found here

To say that the world of education today is complicated would be a radical understatement.  Administrators, classroom teachers, and parents struggle together (and sometimes struggle against one another) through a morass of opportunities, pitfalls, and choices.  Under the banner of “Twenty-first Century Learning” (a title that gets less impressive each year) schools struggle to find ways to effectively integrate digital resources into the classroom and curriculum.  With the purest of intentions schools sail on a sea of murky options, STEM (STEAM, STREAM), Blended Leaning, Flipped Classroom, 1×1, and at every turn there are choices, choices, choices, each with a price tag, a time commitment, and a hoped for outcome.  Standing on a precipice, the educator is pressed to “Choose wisely.”

And to some extent it is a deck that is stacked against us, for there are no correct choices and no right paths.  Most digital tools have a short time of usefulness and then they are quickly tossed aside.  Outcomes of new instruction models (unless they are measured on immediate, limited value, standardized testing) don’t show true effectiveness for years.  In a competitive marketplace it is impossible to select a product or program without being criticized by proponents of the alternative.  The only comfort in making these choices is that to do nothing in a changing environment is equally hazardous.  The future is coming, and it will happen through you or to you.

One way to approach digital choices in school and classroom is to stop listening to (and making) predictions and focusing instead on trends.  Predictions for the future of digital education are based on the definitive information of today and indicate a clear path.  The problem with this is that this path is often inflexible and sometimes wrong.  Trend analysis recognizes areas of focus and develops ongoing and flexible strategy to address these.  An auto manufacturer may predict that there will be flying cars by 2015 and put all resources toward that goal.  While this prediction may come true, other factors might come into play that either surpass this goal or go in another direction.  Perhaps the introduction of another dimension to automotive travel doesn’t increase reliability, dependability, or safety.  On the other hand, a second manufacturer might note that people respond well to greater automation in cars and spend its resources discovering and following this trend.  This manufacturer has a far greater range of actions and a far greater opportunity for success.  Predictions often lead down blind alleys; trend analysis gives full flexibility to recognize and adapt to a changing future

The same too often proves true for schools; a limited prediction blocks the larger trend.  One key trend that is seen in the digital world of education and in general is the move from greater and greater mobility.  From the enormous machines of the dawn of computing to desktop machines, to laptops, to tablets and phones, devices have grown smaller, more powerful, and portable.  This trend has huge ramifications on all aspects of classroom instruction, and immense pitfalls for lack of flexible planning. School A may decide that the FLIM FLAM MICROTABLET is a truly revolutionary device and predict that this device will be the foundation of their program for the next decade.  While this prediction might prove true, it is equally possible that another device may come to surpass it, and the school is locked into a less effective option.  School B may identify the trend of mobile individual computing for students and develop a strategy to consistently find the best option to meet this need.  In trend approaches, no plans are tied to model or brand, but to essential function.

One does not have to look far to find a number of similar trends in education brought about by the digital revolution.  The textbook across the desk has a clear shelf life, as the economic realities of publishing will push textbook companies off paper and into digital products.  Early predictions saw no further than a digital reproduction of a paper book, pictures of pages. However, if we follow the trend of a new textbook, there are opportunities to envision products that transcend the “words and pictures” limitations of paper books to integrate sounds, videos, links, and even adaptable instruction and assessment.  The same could be said about a paper-less environment (less paper, not paperless).  With the growing number of classes with individual devices, the medium of paper for the transmission of data seems a wasteful and impractical choice.  However, many can point to the bold predictions in the early 1990s of a true paperless future were mocked by the ensuing glut of paper use as personal printers quadrupled consumption.  The trend that we will find practical alternatives to paper use allows us the flexibility to do what’s best and even to envision new applications before unseen (and certainly unpredicted).

Similar trends can be observed (and predictions made) in every area of instruction.  It is clear there will be new instruction models and new delivery systems.  It is clear that student work will take new forms to meet the abilities of tools and the needs of the time.  It is clear that social media will play an important role in human interaction inside and outside the classroom.  As educators plan, these trends (as they are today) must be integrated into action.  Predictions for our digital future may be right or wrong in their direction, but trend analysis can always provide direction as we sail over choppy or smooth seas toward the horizon.

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Twenty-four Days of Blogging, Day 24: Love and Joy come to you, and a glad Christmas too!

Thursday, 24. December 2015 16:15 | Author:

On Christmas night all Christians sing

To hear the news the Angels bring
News of great joy, news of great mirth
News of our merciful king's birth

These are the opening lines of the Sussex Carol, another wonderful, seldom-heard traditional Christmas carol, but as I close another year of this exercise I'm not simply pointing out one more great thing that you all should listen to immediately (though you should). I had this playing in my (wireless) headphones the other day and one word stood out from all the rest, mirth. It's not a word we use a lot (in fact, all I can picture when I say mirth is Carol Kane in The Muppet Movie saying, “Yeth?”), but I think it is going to be my Christmas wish for all of us this year.

It is important that the writer combined joy and mirth in the same line to show that they are related but not identical (OK, some may say that he just needed something to rhyme with birth). Mirth is a subset of joy, all mirth is joy, but not all joy is mirth. Mirth is the most childlike and boundless face of joy, completely guileless, completely self contained, and completely without self awareness. I picture a child giggling as the face of mirth, overwhelmed by happiness, maybe not even recognizing the reason why.

In these later years mirth becomes a stranger in our lives. We still have joy, but in its cooler faces. We feel satisfaction, which is the antithesis of mirth because it is completely tied to reasonable rationale. We feel ironic amusement that often borders on gallows humor (Donald Trump). We feel Shadenfreude as we watch our real and imagined enemies encounter obstacles. As I examine the past year, I think the joy I have felt most often has been relief that something worked or some bad thing didn't happen. While all of these have their place, all of them are limited and lack the expansiveness of mirth.

So as we move into Christmas (and if you follow the Christian calendar Christmas season doesn't start until tonight) I hope that we all can be given many moments of mirth. Let us all let go of self-consciousness and feel bloody happy that it's Christmas, that it's Friday, that it's life. If there is a gift of Christmas that we all need and one that could benefit the whole world, it would be the gift of mirth. It's too big to wrap (almost too big to feel) but there is enough of it to go around and fit under everyone's tree and to fill everyone's house.

Merry Christmas…let there be peace.

Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/juhansonin/6111312534

 

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